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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

28 September 2020 08:01:32 PM

QUEZON CITY, 28 September - If we want to cut red tape, we need to put more teeth in the anti-red tape law and augment Anti-Red Tape Authority's (ARTA) budget, not create another law.

The call was made by Representative Paul R. Daza (1st District, Northern Samar), Vice- chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations and sponsor of ARTA’s budget in the 2021 budget deliberations and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymond “LRay” Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur).

Daza and Villafuerte, who are staunch advocates in cutting of bureaucratic red tape, call on the President and colleagues at the Senate to push for strengthening of the current law, Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act (RA 11032) and increasing ARTA’s budget.

“We definitely understand the concerns of the President and our colleagues at the Senate. Therefore, we need to give more powers to ARTA. If we will also ensure strong implementation of the law and augment its budget, ARTA is more than enough. We don’t have to give extra work to the President. ARTA is already his work horse; we just need to amend the law,” Daza and Villafuerte stressed.

The lawmakers explained that in the current law, ARTA can only recommend streamlining but it is not mandatory to the agencies. Therefore, they propose to make streamlining mandatory and allow ARTA to recommend preventive suspension of erring officials through the President if there are blatant violations.

The legislators explained that ARTA cannot impose sanctions. For example, if a government official had been found to be at fault after a thorough investigation, ARTA could not yet implement a preventive suspension. Instead, ARTA still needs to go through the tedious filing of case either through the Ombudsman or Civil Service Commission—this takes time and practically renders the investigation done at the ARTA level inutile.

“After discussions with ARTA Director General Jeremiah Belgica, we agreed to propose the filing of an urgent bill amending RA 11032 to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and then push for its inclusion in the priority bills of the 18th Congress,” Daza and Villafuerte added.

ARTA has already made some progress and supported the Department of Information and Communications Technology and partner agencies in streamlining the permitting process for shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure (PTTI). Of the 86 documentary requirements, it is now reduced to 35 only, cutting down processing time of 241 days to 16 days only. In a short span of time, 990 permits were already issued out of 15,000 backlog in applications.

In the World Bank Doing Business Report (2020), the Philippines ranked 95th out of 190 economies, an improvement of 29 notches from the country’s 124th rank during the 2019 survey. Industry experts credit this partly to streamlined processes.

Reps Daza and Villafuerte emphasized that the more important goal is to streamline government transactions in a way that the system will ultimately prevent or lessen violations. “Carrot-and-stick approach will help but what we are trying to do is change the culture toward more meaningful engagement rather than punishment,” the Northern Samar and Camarines Sur representatives opined.

They then called on their colleagues in both chambers to ensure that ARTA’s budget will be augmented so it can accomplish its mandate. For FY 2021, ARTA proposed a budget of P586 million but the Department of Budget of Management approved P146 million only.

The ARTA law amends Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (RA 9485) and mandates all government agencies, national or local, Government Owned and Controlled Corporations, and government instrumentalities located in the Philippines or abroad to comply with prescribed processing time, namely, 3 working days for simple transactions; 7 working days for complex transactions, and 20 working days highly technical applications.